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Concert Reviews:
Rod Stewart Still The Same Crowd-Pleaser At The Palace

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2007

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AUBURN HILLS -- If anyone was really concerned, it appears "Still the Same" will remain the sole providence of Bob Seger this year in Detroit.

Rod Stewart's latest album, "Still the Same: Great Rock Classics of Our Time," takes its title from the Top 5 1978 Seger hit, but it wasn't one of the four songs from the covers set that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer performed Tuesday night at the Palace -- perhaps out of deference to being in the creator's home town, or maybe because Stewart and his band didn't prepare it for his current tour.

It seemed like an odd exclusion, but Stewart's two-and-a-half hour show (with 20-minute intermission), still gave its props to Detroit, a city that embraced Stewart 40 years ago, when he was fronting the Jeff Beck Group, and has kept him in its heart ever since. He repaid the regard with his versions of the Temptations' "(I Know) I'm Losing You" and the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine," but mostly with a 28-song marathon that flaunted a potent array of hits for the ebullient, albeit not sold-out, Palace crowd.

Stewart may have spent the past five years or so singing the Great American Songbook and now the great classic rock songbook, but Tuesday's concert was clearly designed to remind us of his own impressive chunk of classics. The pop standards have been put away, and while Stewart's voice -- diminished by age (62) and a late '90s bout of thyroid cancer -- sounded a bit suspect on "Tonight I'm Your" and "Some Guys Have All the Luck," it warmed and strengthened as the show went on. And Stewart mitigated his lessened power and range with his still-energetic stage presence, a genially droll personality, five outfit changes and an eye-grabbing in-the-round stage that was bordered by two circular ramps that brought him even closer to the audience.

The set list surveyed his entire post-Beck career, from early favorites such as "Gasoline Alley," "You Wear it Well," "Every Picture Tells a Story," the Faces' "Ooh La La" and an acoustic "Dirty Old Rain" from his first album to '70s and '80s smashes like "Infatuation," "Hot Legs," "Tonight's the Night" and "Young Turks" to latter-day interpretations of Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately" and Tom Waits' "Downtown Train." He turned "You're In My Heart" into a love song to Scotland's Celtic Football Club, leading a parade of fans wearing the team's green-and-white colors around the stage. And Stewart accompanied his rendition of Cat Stevens' "Father and Son" with a genuinely touching video display that featured photos of his father and his own 14-month-old son Alistair.

Helping Stewart make it all work was a facile 13-piece band -- with three backup singers and several multi-instrumentalists -- that was able to expand and shrink to meet any of the individual songs' needs. Robin Ruddy, who played banjo, pedal steel and dobro, and fiddler/mandolinist J'Anna Jacoby in particular brought important earth undertones to many of the songs, although a Destiny's Childized treatment of Big Brother & the Holding Company's "Piece of My Heart" performed by the singers added nothing to the evening.

But as he closed the evening with "Maggie May," Stewart left the Palace stage a winner. He may not be still the same, but he proved still capable of delivering a night full of fan-pleasing hits.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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